The pandemic’s savage political revelations, from the U.S. to Palestine

Palestinian policemen wearing protective gear stand guard during a simulation training organized by the ministry of health and the ministry of interior in Gaza City on July 18, 2020. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)
Palestinian policemen wearing protective gear stand guard during a simulation training organized by the ministry of health and the ministry of interior in Gaza City on July 18, 2020. (photo: Ashraf Amra / APA Images)
The issues of inequity being seen during this pandemic are also seen by Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories who suffer from high levels of structural racism and cross generational trauma.

By Alice Rothchild | Mondoweiss | Aug 8, 2020

It can be argued that race (a predominantly social construct) is not the issue– rather, that the racism within our societies where African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and other people of color live and work creates the inequities and vulnerabilities that produce the racial and ethnic differences in the data that are now obvious.

Much of the analysis of COVID-19 and Palestine examines the pandemic through a political lens. Palestinians in Israel and the territories have had less access to testing and information due to their second-class citizenship and the conditions of occupation. In the West Bank and Gaza, there are significant deficits in medical resources (such as ventilators) and trained (and adequately paid) medical staff.

In general Palestinians under occupation have high rates of diseases related to stress, poverty, smoking, and poor nutrition such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. They tend to live in environments contaminated by the detritus of war and the toxics from unregulated industries (such as Israeli industrial zones in the West Bank) with high levels of asthma and cancer. They often work in jobs that cannot be done on Zoom and that provide no labor protections– notably the construction and homecare workers who travel daily to Israel from the West Bank, waiting for hours in crowded checkpoints.

Recent studies in the United States shed light on the risks and realities for Palestinians. The Harvard University Center for the Developing Child published a paper in April addressing racial disparities through the scientific lens of early childhood trauma. They suggested that the legacy of structural racism and cross generational trauma produces an elevated level of chronic stress that in turn creates an increased susceptibility to a number of diseases, including COVID-19.

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